Editor’s Note: The names have been removed for sake of privacy. But the message is real.

A friend asked me to tell my story because I lost my son to heroin 3 1/2 years ago. I have been trying to figure out where to start and what to say. I graduated from Nordonia in 1981. My son also attended Nordonia but didn’t graduate. He hated the noise and distractions of others around him. We tried counseling, medications, etc. Eventually I gave in and let him do on-line school. He never finished that but eventually got his GED. At 18 he was delivering pizza. Worked every chance he got. We had moved by that time so he’d hang out with friends after work. He was still a fairly happy person. The pizza place closed, he lost his job and couldn’t spend as much time with friends. Out of sight out of mind, eventually he lost all his friends. They were working, making money and doing what 18 and 19 year olds do. They didn’t have time for him anymore. I could hear him on the phone begging them to come over but no one came anymore. I would offer to drive him to his friends but they always had plans and didn’t include him anymore. My heart ached for him. He became isolated. Depressed. Stayed in his room, alone. We continued counseling and meds, but nothing lifted the depression. He tried, but couldn’t find another job (or so he said). I caught him stealing my medication for MS. So I slept with them in my pillow. Finally I found withdrawals on my bank statement I know he had made. So I knew I couldn’t live with him anymore. By this time there was a friend hanging around. Also from Nordonia who had also moved near us. So, thinking a reality check would help, I rented him an apartment where he could easily find a job within walking distance. He needed that because his car died and he totaled my van. I had no way to buy him another car. He was in his apartment, 3 months without a job when he fell and severely broke his ankle. It was a really bad break. Required surgery to repair. Of course post surgery, he was prescribed Percocet for the pain. When the original script was gone, he began to have “accidents” that required an ER visit and x-rays to ensure he hadn’t ruined the hardware they had put in. Each ER visit ended with more Percocet. He would call me one time, my mom the next, his sister the next. I didn’t realize at first that he was doing this until my mom, my daughter and I all happened to mention taking him to the ER on different days. I flagged him at every ER as a drug seeker, so he could only get Ultram after that. The accidents stopped once he realized there would be no more Percocet. To the best of my knowledge that’s where the heroin came into play. I never knew. I went to his apartment every single day, never missed a day. Never saw him high. Never. I knew he drank alcohol and smoked pot. But never heroin high, never once did I see that or suspect that. Then he called me at work, said an old friend had called and invited him over and he would be staying the night with this friend. By this time he was 21. I agreed to pick him up from his friends house on my way home from work the next day. I spoke with him later that evening, he sounded sober. The next evening, while driving home I was calling and calling his phone to let him know what time I would be at his friends house, each time the calls went to voicemail. At 5:04pm my daughter called me crying hysterically, asking me “is it true, is he dead?” I said, “I don’t know, no one called me, what are you talking about?” She stated, her father, my ex-husband, had called her and said the police were just at his house to notify him that his son was found dead. I said, “it must be true, he is at a friends house there, I am on my way to pick him up”. I begged her to get off the road, she too was driving home from work, told her to call my brother and stay put so I could make some calls. While driving 70 mph on in rush hour traffic, I somehow reached the police department and confirmed that my son was indeed found dead at his friends house. It was being treated as a homicide. I somehow managed to call my brother, my daughter, my boss, etc. my brother met me at my mom’s so I could tell her. Then I drove home where my partner and friend were waiting for me. The 3 of us drove to the hospital where I finally got to see my son. He was gone. It was really him. His father and half brother were there too, which I found funny since neither one had spoken to him in months because they didn’t like him or his choices. It was the hospital that told me about track marks and suspected drug OD. The next morning I went to the police department to collect Joe’s personal things and spoke with the detective on his case. I asked for the homicide investigation to be dropped. I knew no one held him down and gave him heroin. If he died of a heroin overdose then he did it willingly. The detective shared that neighbors reported seeing a black car pull in then leave 15 minutes later. Shortly after that the police and squad arrived at the house. The detective believes my son’s “friend” had someone come over and take all the paraphernalia out of the house before the friend called 911. I made funeral arrangements for my musically talented, funny, sweet, kind hearted son. Calling hours were packed. “Friends” he hadn’t seen in years came and cried. Tons of them. I didn’t cry a single tear that day. Many asked me if I was medicated. No, I was and still am so relieved my boy suffers from depression, rejection and loneliness no more. He was tortured, in his heart and mind. Now he is free.

There’s so much more. To my son, his life and his death but I can’t write them yet. My heart is broken, yet for him I’m relieved. I’m angry, sad, glad and broken all at once. This is all I can share right now. I’m a nurse. A mental health nurse. If anyone else has lost a child to heroin don’t blame yourself. I am trained and missed it in my own child. Hope this helps someone